Bacon, ground beef, cheese, and hot sauce make this Cowboy Pasta Salad recipe a definite crowd pleaser! Perfect for an easy dinner, side dish, backyard BBQ’s, game day, or any time!
Cowboy Pasta Salad Recipe
Ever heard of Cowboy Spaghetti? It’s a twist on classic spaghetti and meatballs, but with crumbled ground beef, bacon, hot sauce, and cheddar cheese. And apparently named as such because cowboys like that stuff, right? Who knows. All I do know is my family loves it.
I thought it would be fun to adapt it into this Cowboy Pasta Salad and it turned out amazing! Including lean ground beef, crispy hickory smoked bacon, cheese, and a tangy flavor-packed creamy dressing, it’s so hearty and flavorful.
I served it at a potluck I hosted – everyone flocked to it and wanted the recipe, so here it is. Horses, lassos, and spurs not included.
Here’s what goes in this cowboy pasta salad recipe.
(Scroll below to the printable recipe card for details and measurements.)
- Meat – A combination of cooked lean ground beef and crispy hickory smoked bacon. (Feel free to swap out the ground beef for good Italian sausage.)
- Pasta – I used wagon wheel pasta to stick with the cowboy theme (cute, right?!) but any small pasta will work.
- Corn – Fresh corn would be great when it’s in season, you could even grill it for another layer of flavor, but canned corn is very convenient for year round. (Chickpeas or black beans would be a great substitution or addition, of preferred.)
- Cherry tomatoes – Sliced in half.
- Scallions – For a subtle peppery onion taste and pop of color.
- Cheese – Shredded sharp cheddar cheese.
- For the sauce – Mayonnaise, Barbecue sauce, Spicy Brown Mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and Hot chili sauce.
- Seasonings – Cumin, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.
How to Make Cowboy Pasta Salad
This pasta salad recipe is super easy to make in just a few steps.
(Scroll down to the printable recipe card for details and measurements, and don’t miss the video below.)
- Make the pasta. Cook pasta until al dente, drain and rinse under cold water. Drizzle with a little olive oil to prevent sticking.
- Cook the bacon and beef. Saute bacon until crispy, using a slotted spoon transfer to paper towels to drain off the grease. Wipe out skillet, leaving a little of the bacon grease. Add the ground beef; cook, breaking it up into tiny crumbles until cooked through and no longer pink. Season with the cumin, red pepper flakes, and with a pinch of salt and pepper. Drain off fat. Set aside to cool completely.
- Make the dressing. In an extra large bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, barbecue sauce, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and hot chili sauce until combined and smooth.
- Assemble. To the bowl with the dressing, add in the cooked pasta, bacon, beef, corn, tomatoes, cheese, and scallions; toss to combine and coat. Serve and enjoy!
Is this pasta salad spicy?
Video Cowboy Pasta Salad Recipe
This pasta salad is quite hearty, so you can easily serve it for dinner as a full meal, but it’s also great as a side dish. And certainly perfect for a potluck!
Cowboy pasta salad is best enjoyed right after it’s assembled at room temperature. The more it sits, the tomatoes will continue to break down and once chilled, the dressing isn’t as creamy. But leftovers the next day are definitely still delish.
- Make ahead. You can make the dressing and cook the ground beef and bacon the day before you’ll need the salad, then assemble and serve fresh. Store them all in their own separate containers in the fridge.
- Storing leftovers. This salad is best served the same day its made, but it will keep in the refrigerator in an airtight container up to 2 days. If assembling this ahead of time, I recommend leaving out the tomatoes, then toss them in right before serving. And reserve a little dressing or make extra to add in, since it gets soaked up by the pasta sitting overnight and won’t be as creamy.
More Pasta Salad Recipes:
- Macaroni Salad
- Greek Pasta Salad
- Chicken Broccoli Pasta Salad
- Lemon Orzo Salad
- Italian Chopped Salad
- Cashew Chicken Pasta Salad
Cowboy Pasta Salad
- 1 pound dried wagon wheel pasta
- 1 pound hickory smoked bacon , diced
- 3/4 pound lean ground beef
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- pinch red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup barbecue sauce
- 2 tablespoons Spicy Brown Mustard
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 & 1/2 teaspoons hot chili sauce
- 15 ounce can whole kernel sweet corn, drained
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 & 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 5 scallions, diced
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil; cook pasta until al dente according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water. Drizzle with a little olive oil to prevent sticking.
- In the meantime, saute bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crispy. With a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper towel lined plate to drain off grease.
- Wipe out skillet, leaving a little of the bacon grease. Add the ground beef; cook, breaking it up into tiny crumbles, until cooked through and no longer pink. Season with the cumin, red pepper flakes, and with a pinch of salt and pepper. Drain off fat. Set aside to cool completely.
- In an extra large bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, barbecue sauce, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and hot chili sauce until combined and smooth. Add in the cooked pasta, bacon, beef, corn, tomatoes, cheese, and scallions; toss to combine and coat.
- We enjoy this best right after it's assembled at room temperature, but leftovers the next day are definitely still delish.